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October 04, 2017

Las Vegas highlights need for change in our national gun policy

'We need change on this important public health issue, the carnage must stop..." writes Camden County Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr.

On Sunday, another day that will live in infamy for breaking records for carnage, we watched in horror the sights and sounds of the theater of war. 

We find ourselves taking stock of another horrific tragedy that does not have clear cut answers, nevertheless, one fact remains, the stockpile of weapons used in this incident draws a clear red line for the destruction it caused. The actions of the last 48 hours point to one man and a stockpile of firearms transforming into a weapon of mass destruction killing 59 people and injuring more than 500 before police could eliminate the threat.

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Louis Cappelli Jr.

When I brought up the many legitimate issues with the conceal-carry reciprocity law in front of Congress I noted the disconcerting, ongoing trend of more than one mass shooting a day. Thanks to a more recent analysis we know that the metric continues to be accurate, over the last 477 days the nation has experienced 521 mass shootings. While Congress’s inaction should not be shocking on this public health crisis, remember this is the same branch of government, along with the executive, that is in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. That said, how, in this time, in this place, can we allow these senseless tragedies to continue at a more than daily basis?

This is the same Congress that voted down an assault weapons ban, voted down a law for national background checks, nixed a law that prevented people with known mental health conditions from buying a gun and continues to allow people on the no-flight list to buy firearms.

Now, to my astonishment, the Congress is moving legislation, just one week after one of their members, shooting victim U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, returned to the Capitol, to make it easier to buy a silencer, reclassify armored piercing bullets to make them easier to purchase and pass the conceal-carry reciprocity legislation.

There is a simple premise here: we need legislation to serve the many and not the few. We need legislation that will protect our children, law enforcement and community, not just the NRA and its members.

And believe it or not, this will be done on the Hearing Protection Act. Sounds harmless, right? Who wouldn’t want to protect someone’s hearing by allowing them to transport their firearms to other states – undermining state’s rights and stricter gun laws – and buy armor-piercing bullets and a silencer to boot. Has this Republican Congress lost its mind?

We need change on this important public health issue, the carnage must stop and we have to stop asking each other how we explain these tragedies to our children. This is not the landscape we want them to grow up in; this cannot be a nation where we must fear someone with untreated mental illness can get an arsenal and kill as many people as possible. Furthermore, as a society, we cannot afford to have individuals who have no right to own a weapon of mass destruction use it against our community.

Even former Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who led the war in Afghanistan, believes military grade weapons – like those used in Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Aurora and Newtown, and the list goes on – do not belong in the hands of civilians. This is a man who intimately knows the hell of war and has carried assault weapons with him throughout his entire military career. There is a simple premise here: we need legislation to serve the many and not the few. We need legislation that will protect our children, law enforcement and community, not just the NRA and its members. We cannot continue to be the only westernized nation in the world where our citizens are victimized at this rate by gun violence.

This is not a time to sit down, but one to stand up and demand change from those members of Congress who continue to sit idly by while taking money from the NRA for their reelection campaign. This is a time to support members of Congress like Rep. Donald Norcross who represents Camden County and who is standing up to the gun lobby and committed to making our streets, public spaces, law enforcement and community safer.

We won’t let this issue turn into an Onion headline, the Freeholder Board will not accept a macabre comedy to come from these continued incidents of gun violence. As a society, it is imperative that these tragedies do not settle into the background as a normal occurrence and that together we work to change them.

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Louis Cappelli Jr. is freeholder director in Camden County and a resident of Collingswood.

(Full disclosure: U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross is the uncle of Philly Voice Founder and CEO Lexie Norcross.)

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